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Theme 2: Evolution of a coastal system subject to multiple anthropogenic constraints: from scientific observation to community management

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Project leaders: Cyril Tissot (UMR LETG-Brest), Stéphane Pouvreau (UMR LEMAR) and Aline Blanchet (Ifremer- DYNECO-LEBCO)

Main objective: The research and projects included in theme 2 aim to better describe the interactions between anthropogenic pressures and the functioning of coastal ecosystems. The bay of Brest and its surroundings will serve as a pilot site. To attain this objective, this theme will focus on studying model organisms and specific communities that are representative of this habitat, while taking care to improve descriptions of the environmental quality. More generally, this theme will strive to improve knowledge about the evolution of coastal habitats subject to various anthropogenic pressures (fisheries and aquaculture, urban and farming activities, climate change, etc.) and propose targeted conservation and restoration measures in cooperation with other territorial actors.

Keywords: Anthropogenic pressures (contaminants, water quality, farming), biodiversity, long-term changes, functioning of the ecosystem, modelling, conservation, restoration.

Description of the research work: The work to be undertaken in this theme aims to concentrate research effort around three priority lines of research.

1. The first line of research concerns the characterisation of the main vectors contributing to good water quality in the bay of Brest. More specifically, the idea is to model the variability of telluric flows along the land-sea continuum. This approach was initiated during the ARTISTICC project and will draw on nutrient flow measurements made by the ECOFLUX network. ECOFLUX has been monitoring small rivers flowing into the sea in Finistère since the 1990s, and maintains a corresponding database. This research will be completed by analyses on inputs of anthropogenic origin (chemical contaminants, nutrient salt, microbiological elements, etc.) and their breakdown and transformation in estuarine and coastal waters.

2. The second line of inquiry revolves around issues concerning eutrophication and phycotoxin phenomena, together with the fate of pollutants in the benthic and pelagic compartments.  Emphasis will be put on:  (1) understanding toxic microalgal blooms,  more specifically the genera Alexandrium and Pseudo-nitzschia whose production of paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) and amnesic shellfish poisons (ASP) lead to the serious contamination of benthic resources in the bay of Brest (oysters and scallops, e.g., ANR ACCUTOX); and (2) the issue of emerging contaminants (micro- and nanoplastics) that are currently being quantified and qualified for the first time in the Iroise Sea (ANR Nanoplastics).

3. The third line of inquiry is dedicated to studying the dynamics of benthic habitats, and how these habitats function, via approaches involving different temporal (analysis of historical series, forecasts based on climate constraints, etc.) and spatial (site of outstanding interest, regional modelling, etc.) scales. Changes to the biodiversity and the marine ecosystem in the bay of Brest will be specifically analysed to further understand the dynamics and development of populations of exotic or native, invasive or threatened species and the associated communities (VELYGER, PERLE, EVOCREP, DEXPO and TRECH projects). To take into account the effect anthropogenic activities have on these dynamics, specific research work (e.g., the DIRAPEN project) will be carried out on the impact of human activity (fishing, aquaculture, water sports, urban development and farming) on benthic habitats. Finally, research efforts involving restoration and conservation measures will also be made in conjunction with coastal zone managers (PERLE project).

LABORATORIES CONCERNED, PARTNERSHIPS

Laboratories involved: LETG-Brest, LEMAR, AMURE, Ifremer (DYNECO) 

Non-academic partners: PNMI, PNRA, Brest Métropole, Comité Départemental des Pêches Maritimes et des Élevages Marins du Finistère, (Département-level committee for sea fishing and aquaculture), Comité Régional de la Conchyliculture (Région-level committee for shellfish farming)

Preferential study sites: bay of Brest, Molène-Ouessant archipelago, Ile de Sein (comparison with the bay of Douarnenez)